Sitting in the faded, fluorescent booth of a bar in the Lower East Side’s Orchard Street are Mic Nguyen and Fumi Abe, caught in a heated debate over whether Eddie Murphy’s RAW or DELIRIOUS comedy special was better.
Mic and Fumi are the dynamic comedy duo behind ASIAN, NOT ASIAN, a podcast that features top notch Asian Americans on everything funny, political and NSFW. Besides that, they’re also the hype men behind a monthly comedy show called HACK CITY that has taken place for the past 3 years across local undergrounds in NYC until finally landing in Canal Street Market. On top of THAT (are you still with me?), they’re also regularly performing stand up in lounges all over the city - from subterranean bars to top tier standup lounges as often as five times a week.
In this New York City, Uber everywhere / Netflix fueled generation, it’s hard to talk about these guys without wondering where the hell they make the time for everything. Besides, I haven’t even mentioned their day jobs, (Fumi is in IT, Mic is a copywriter) which take up the bulk of their time.
I first came across Mic and Fumi during a deep dive of cool, cheap (aka FREE) comedy shows in NYC. Stand up comedy is the poor human’s entertainment in NYC, and with a few well drinks and a dimly lit bar, one can instantly forget their own sorrows. While comedy is everywhere in New York City, good comedy is harder to find. Or, at least, a two drink minimum and pricey door ticket away.
A few Instagram DM’s and emails later, I was in the middle of a convo with the guys talking about what Ronny Chieng is like in real life (click the link to listen to their podcast with him) and growing up as an Asian American trying to be funny AF.
Fumi made his way from Ohio to NYU when he found himself navigating the stand up scene. He met Mic (CA native) not too long into it and together the two started meeting weekly to brainstorm, write sketches and practice their jokes. After doing show after show after show, the two decided to throw their own.
“The first year I did stand - up, I probably went up 700 times. Since then, I probably average 500 times a year...and that’s including everything from 5 minute sets in shitty basements, to ambush shows and half hour specials”
- Fumi Abe
Our conversation took a turn from favorite stand ups to the art of stand up. While I always assumed stand up involved an inimitable amount of bombing on stage in half empty cellars in the West Village, I was impressed by how militant of an approach they took about it.
The art of stand up is not new to NYC by any means. If anything, it is as definitive to New York City as taxicabs, pizza by the slice or piss scented train cars. Comedy in NYC for me at least, has always had a Jewish connotation. The Comedians and comediennes of the past were Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner, and Lenny Bruce but Asian comedians were few and far between. We wanted to find out what it was like for our Asian, Not Asian comedians.
“We say that we’re like Desus and Mero, except we went to good colleges”
The podcast came from us meeting weekly to complain about standup and we realized there was something funny happening there.
- Fumi Abe
What was it like when your parents found out you were doing standup?
FUMI: Well, it’s not like I really told them. I mean we work in advertising in a creative field, and even explaining that was hard enough. You know, we’re paying our bills, we’re grown, I just never really felt like I had to tell them.
MIC:Yea, I mean we’re grown up. I want to have them come and see me perform when I’m at like a nice venue, you know? So until then, we’ll just hang tight.
What do you say to other people who want to be successful comedians?
MIC: You know, people will say that you just have to do it and bomb, but you really have to think like a business person. You have to be able to market yourself. You could be the most talented comedian in the world, but if no one knows, then it’s not really helping your career.
A lot of it is also figuring out how to find your target audience too. A lot of people find that niche super easily. For us, we think it’s youngish multi-cultural people who don’t necessarily have to be Asian, but have been shown a different culture maybe, and just get the feeling of being somewhat of an outsider growing up in the states.
FUMI: Yea, that’s why I related so hard to Eddie Murphy growing up. As an asian kid, it was just awesome to see someone different on TV, talking about different things and being hilarious.
Next step is we are constantly writing and preparing scripts. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen next, but we’re open to all opportunities, but we’d like to have a development deal one day. Maybe a TV show, like Desus and Mero, but Asian. (Whoever knows some Hollywood/Vice/Execs holla at my dudes HERE).
It’s exciting to see when people are on the way up and up. It’s been five years since the two started comedy, and a rough mental math calculation makes me think it’s been about 2,700 times since they hit the stage. Telling jokes. Bombing. Rocking sets. Getting up and doing it all over again.
You can find check out Mic and Fumi’s FREE monthly stand up show HACK CITY at Canal Street Market every third Wednesday of the month.
If you can’t make that, then listen to their funnies at ASIAN NOT ASIAN podcast.
If you can’t listen to that then at least stalk them on Instagram.
Asian, Not Asian is “a podcast by two Asian comedians not from Asia talking about American issues no Americans seem to care about.” Each week, Fumi Abe and Mic Nguyen discuss everything from race to urban myths to Urban Outfitters. New episodes release every Monday. Find Asian, Not Asian on iTunes and Soundcloud, and on Instagram @AsianNotAsianPod